Viruses and scams affect many people each year. In fact, over 16 million people have experienced a serious virus problem in the past two years, according to the Statistic Brain Institute, and WJLA out of Washington, D.C., reported that phone scams cost Americans $8.6 billion in 2013.
The problem is, the average person does not think about scams and viruses until it is too late. The need is not for a spread fear of the internet and anyone who asks for people’s money. The need is to get word out about how to effectively prevent viruses, protect personal information online, and avoid scammers.
Jesse Juarez, a computer repair technician working for a major electronic retailer, says the most common type of virus is the Trojan virus. A Trojan is a type of malware that acts like something it is not.
“We see a lot of Trojans that come up as popups, warning the computer is infected or that the FBI is tracking due to numerous reasons with a number to call,” Juarez said. “Do not call this number. These guys are very convincing and will say just about anything to get money from you.”
One of the staff members at Texas Forest Country Living recently got a ransom virus, a computer virus that demands the user call a number and pay an amount of money or the virus’ creators will steal all of the user’s passwords and credit card numbers. She got this virus simply by surfing the internet, and her mother got the same virus a week before by clicking a video to watch on Facebook.
“As far as how to avoid getting a virus, stay away from the internet. Don’t look at it, think about it, or speak about it,” Juarez said, referring to the “running joke” in the computer repairs industry. “But really, the best way is to invest in an anti-virus and internet security software. Avoid ‘free’ software, and read the fine print when installing anything. They generally hide adware and malware as a tag along on the instillation process.”
For protecting private information, Juarez recommends giving away as little information as possible online.
“Most banks actually do an amazing job at protecting their clients, but first and foremost is having a great password and changing it often,” Juarez said.
As for phone scams, be aware of what is affecting your area. For example, people in East Texas have been victim to a phone scam in which the caller says the IRS is suing them. The caller proceeds to demand the person pay a settlement.
Another phone affecting East Texas is one claiming a person’s relative is incarcerated in Mexico and needs to be bailed out. This scam has cost citizens upwards of $3,000.
One way to avoid phone scams, decide not to give money or any personal information like social security numbers or credit card numbers over the phone. Do all philanthropic giving in person, through verified mailing addresses, and very trusted internet sites. If the nonprofit organization is not well known, do some digging to find out if it is real or not.
Another way to stay informed on phone scams in your area is to check your local police department social media pages. They will often post information on the latest scams and illegal activity.
The best first step anyone can take is to be careful in all transactions, password creations, and internet surfing. The unexpected can happen at anytime, especially if one is not being vigilant.